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Cataract Falls Trail

MODERATE 821 reviews
#1 of 83 trails in

Cataract Falls Trail is a 3.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bolinas, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 3.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1,082 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

rocky

Cataract Falls is one of the most popular falls trails in Marin County within the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a great hike with scattered cascading waterfalls along the entirety of the trail. The trailhead is located off of Bolinas Fairfax Road, just past Alpine Lake. The falls are reached by Cataract Trail starting from Bolinas Fairfax Road. The trail follows Cataract Creek north. The trail shortly starts to climb uphill through a shaded forest and crosses the flowing creek several times. You will eventually reach Laurel Dell picnic area. If you continue on the trail past the picnic area, it will start to descend towards the upper falls. At the junction of Helen Markt Trail and Cataract Trail there is a nice pool where you can stop, take a break, and enjoy the great views. Although this is a short hike, it has a decent amount of elevation gain and is a good workout. If you wish to extend your hike, you can also start from the Rock Spring Trailhead. The best time to visit is after rainfall when the waterflow is heavier.

hiking
18 days ago

Although it’s short, there is some serious incline. Real life stair master! We only went to the picnic area at the top but if you continue on, you can reach the summit. There were little trickles from the waterfall, but nothing out of this world. The hike itself is beautiful so you won’t be disappointed if you don’t see a crazy fall. That’s just an added bonus!

Good shade all the way

hiking
19 days ago

Lots of shaded areas and very pleasant views. Forestry with waters.

hiking
1 month ago

we did the entire trail from the beginning of the trail, about 7.4miles, well maintained and wide path, then stairs, lots of shade, good signs. trail is along side of the creek, very tranquil and pleasant. ranger advised very crowded during the weekend, but absolutely beautiful during weekdays.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Dog friendly hike (dogs on leash)! We started at the parking lot at the top of the mountain (on the map it is the pin on the bottom farthest from the lake). The view from the top (the Mt.Tamalpis Watershed) was beautiful. The parking lot was a decent size but could get packed on the weekends. No fee for parking and there are port-o-potty’s there as well. The hike was great, this time of year the water isn’t flowing as much as in the winter or spring after a nice rain but there is still some. The trail is nicely shaded providing relief from the sun. Starting from the top you hike all the way down but just remember you have to go back up all those stairs so bring LOTS OF WATER and pace yourself.

hiking
1 month ago

It was a good hike. It was pretty tiring for me due to most uphills and stairs, but it feels great! The only thing was we went on August and it was pretty dry and we didn’t get the full beauty of it. I was also disappointed at the end of the trail. There wasn’t much to see. I’d recommend to go on winter or after few days of rain.

hiking
1 month ago

It was a challenging but great hike! I had my kids with me 8 and 11 yrs old and they were able to keep up...I’d probably attempt it again after the rainy season to see the waterfalls in their full glory. Not to mention the views on the drive up are breathtaking!

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

It was pretty don’t get me wrong. But i was kind of disappointed that there wasn’t more water and the waterfalls were tiny. Definitely wait and go after it rains a few more times or during winter. After all the pictures and amazing reviews, i just felt that it didn’t live up to the hype. Also, parking is not amazing. I got lucky Bc it was a cloudy day and not many people out. But there’s only room for 15 or so cars on the sides of the road by the trail head.

Would recommend hiking during or right after some rain.

hiking
2 months ago

Y'all: my watch says this 1:45 hike had 1,012' of elevation gain over 4.61 miles. I had an average heart rate of 117BPM, and burned 700 calories. This is to say: I loved it and can't wait to do it again! But it isn't relaxing. So be warned.

hiking
2 months ago

Alpine lake is beautiful on the hike up. Went two days ago, no falls were seen per low water flow. Overall quite and nice hike.

hiking
2 months ago

Super fun light trail! Strenuous going up but lots of fun and nice going back down. Nice spots to sit and picnic on the stream/waterfall. Engaging throughout.

hiking
bugs
rocky
2 months ago

Hiked this trail with my cousin and our 9 yo niece. My niece was able to do this hike with no problem. There were lots of rocky stairs and man it was a workout for me!! We took a lot of mini breaks in between. The streams and mini waterfalls were beautiful. On the way up, we stopped at a couple of benches to sit and there were lots of mosquitos so it was quite uncomfortable to enjoy the views. When we got to the top, there were picnic tables where we sat to eat our sandwiches. The way down took us about an hour. We did not stop at all. I would slide down as I walked so be extra cautious for the steep and narrow areas. P.S. there is a two-stall restroom on the way up and in case you need to use it, BRING soap and/or hand sanitizers!! I would do this trail again to challenge myself to keep going on the way up without taking so many breaks.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

We were here a few weekends ago. Beautiful trail, plenty of stairs, steep and narrow in some areas. It was a great work out. The whole family enjoyed the hiking, scenery and water fall.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

If you like stairs, you’ll love this hike. It’s all uphill the first half. Lots of stairs and pretty steep. I don’t believe this trail was described correctly. It’s not kid friendly. Much too hard for little legs. We saw 2 families with kids... one child was crying and another was being carried on his dad’s shoulders - she was about 7 yrs old. It’s more moderate to hard. Two of us tracked our hike with our watches; it was 4+ miles total. It’s a beautiful hike though and we will be back. Bring water and food. Picnic tables are near the top.

hiking
2 months ago

super intense for the first mile, but it is beautiful!

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful trail! Lots of shade as well. However, bring bug spray!

hiking
2 months ago

Quite steep and lots of stairs, but it was worth it! Really enjoyed it!

Great hike but the trail is more like 10 miles. Not a very difficult hike though.

hiking
bugs
3 months ago

what an amazing hike it was!! lots of steps to go up at times but overall it felt easy. Lots of mosquitos at our stops so carry bug spray!! Didnt get to take a dip but its a must! Go prepared(i was not) Trails is very shady but still carry sunscreen. we made it past the picnic are to the other parking lot up there and crossed the road and up a hill for an amazing view of Stinson Beach

hiking
3 months ago

Completed this hike yesterday. It is very beautiful out here! There is limited parking so if you do not want to add to your hike, get there early for the best parking spot. Most of the trail up to the picnic area is shaded so it is a nice trail to be on during a hot day. It is all up hill to the picnic area and all down hill back so expect to stop and rest if you are not used to the incline. the trail is very well maintained so no issues there. The water and mini waterfalls were very nice even for this time of year. Just before the halfway point is the best waterfall and what looks like to be a sweet pool of water. This is the best scenic spot to picnic and rest imo because after that, there is limited water to the picnic area this time of year, so if you want to make a short and sweet hike, this is your turn around point. I would like to do this hike again in the spring and see how different it is when the water flow is at it's best. the great thing about this location is being 30 minutes to Stinson Beach. We drove to the beach and finished our day cooling off in the ocean.

recorded Recording - Jul 07, 04:24 PM

hiking
3 months ago

July 4th sibling hike. cataract falls.

hiking
3 months ago

Personally I like to start this hike at Rock Springs trailhead and hike down and up, but you cannot go wrong anyway you do it. Depending on the time of year the waterfalls can be epic! From Rock Springs the trail is lovely. You hike thru a forest expecting smurfs to pop up and say hello. Its fairy tale like. About 2 mikes in you start down hitting all the waterfalls. Go all the way to the end and hike back, using the back hike to rest and take pics as it is like a long staircase going back up. Usually takes me about 2 1/2-3 hours to complete. A good hike on a rainy day since there is lots of tree coverage it does not get too muddy.

hiking
3 months ago

Really pretty trail with beautiful waterfalls. Not too hard, not too easy. We saw beautiful flowers and swimming holes on our way. No swimming allowed though.

hiking
3 months ago

A really gorgeous Marin trail. The path up the valley is a more-difficult-than-moderate staircase at times, but the many falls and pools, shady trees and bridges are a more-than-adequate reward for the effort.

hiking
3 months ago

This hike has made my top 10 list of all hikes in California and even abroad. It's sheer beauty and tranquility is spectacular! The waterfalls and streams, while not heavily flowing, just added to the great feeling of the outdoors. There were a few heavy uphill areas which kept the heart pumping, but well worth the hike. I'll add that there are beautiful spots to spot and make a picnic. One that you'll not soon forget.

hiking
3 months ago

we took trail from dam road, lake level. up creek to water fall. fantastic

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